06/28/2001 12:00AM

Captain Countdown off a layoff


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Lone Star Park reconfigured its stakes schedule this year to offer six restricted stakes on a single program, creating a mid-season championship for horses with ties to Texas. The card has been named Stars of Texas Day, and purses for the six races, to be run Saturday, total $650,000.

The $150,000 Assault Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up bred in Texas, has drawn a deep field of older runners led by Captain Countdown, who won the Premiere Stakes on April 5, opening night of the meet, over several of the same rivals he faces Saturday.

Others in the eight-horse field include Dignitas Dancer, second in the $300,000 Dallas Turf Cup; Desert Demon, the highest earner in the field, with a bankroll of $369,500; and state-bred stakes winners Lights on Broadway, Chief Three Sox, Lightening Ball, and One Manz Fortune.

Captain Countdown has not raced since finishing fifth, beaten 12 lengths by Dixie Dot Com, in the Grade 3 Texas Mile on April 28. Trainer Steve Asmussen said the time away from the races was the result of a lack of opportunities for the horse, who has won three stakes in five starts this year. Asmussen could have run Captain Countdown in the Lone Star Park Handicap, but he would have had to face Dixie Dot Com again.

Despite the break from racing, Captain Countdown seems to be coming into the Assault sharp, having worked a strong mile in 1:38.40 on June 19.

"He worked a great mile the other day, and we're very pleased with him right now," said Asmussen. "I'm hoping he can duplicate his race from opening day."

Glen Murphy was aboard Captain Countdown when he won the Premiere, and be has the return call for the Assault.

Dignitas Dancer gets back to racing on dirt after finishing second, beaten a few inches by El Gran Papa, in the $300,000 Dallas Turf Cup at odds of 26-1. "From where I was standing, I thought he won it," said trainer Dallas Keen, who has saddled Dignitas Dancer to two wins on dirt and three on turf. He will be ridden by Ted Gondron.

Gerard Melancon has the call on Desert Demon, who in his last start finished sixth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths by Dixie Dot Com, in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap. Since that race, Desert Demon has dazzled in his morning works, drilling five furlongs in a bullet 59 seconds on June 18 and the same distance in 1:00.40 on June 24.

Others to watch include Lights on Broadway, who enters the Assault after winning a six-furlong allowance in 1:09.45.